On the morning of Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, a man entered the Washington Navy Yard, assembled a shotgun in the bathroom, stepped out onto the fourth floor of the building and killed 12 people.
The media dutifully followed protocol—they raced to report the news as it came in (with several news stations initially misidentifying the killer), updated us as the confirmed body count steadily rose, told us when the president was briefed, and, after some time, let us know that there was indeed only one shooter.
Everything proceeded as it usually does when these things happen, with one notable exception—the total lack of a sense of horror.
There was a gunman in our nation's capital. At the time, we thought there were more killers out on the loose. The Senate was on lockdown.
We did not glue our eyes to our screens as we did with Aurora or Newtown or Boston; we saw the news and went on with our days. The Associated Press tweeted a pun about a wrecking ball and a certain starlet's broken engagement.
The next day did not come with nation-wide discussions about mental health or gun control. The questions that we asked were not about the general situation — a society that allows this to happen again and again — but rather the specific incident and why the shooter was allowed to get into that specific building.
America did not experience some sober national awakening. There was no awakening at all. The few writers that did address the bigger issues stopped when they realized that no one was listening.
We don't need video games to desensitize us to violence; real life is desensitizing us just fine on its own.
We're not just getting used to it, though. More than that, we've actually resigned ourselves to living like this — with some sort of violent attack every few months, accompanied by a few days of frenzied reporting that climax in the glorified profiling of our latest celebrity killer.
It seems our threshold for conversation or some call for change has shifted. As long as it's not terrorism, as long as it's not schoolchildren, well, it's sad, but it happens. What can you do?
On one hand, it's easy to sympathize with this attitude. As the Senate rejected the post-Sandy Hook Toomey-Manchin Amendment despite overwhelming popular support for the improved background check systems it would have required, we were receiving a powerful message that our voices alone are not as impactful as we have been led to believe.
On the other hand, this is ridiculous.
There are certain things that we stomach in exchange for a certain way of living. We pay taxes, give up much of our privacy and even sacrifice the lives and sanity of our volunteer soldiers in order to maintain a comfortable status quo. The tolerable magnitudes of these trade-offs are debatable, but the trade-offs themselves, it seems, we have deemed acceptable.
Never before have we so unceremoniously swallowed the bloody deaths of so many of our own at the hand of a single killer. Never before have we been confronted with such public, senseless brutality and simply carried on. In spite of all of our collective bargainings, the status quo has drifted in a direction we should not follow.
We are told we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but we have the right, too, to the horror we feel when any of these things are violated.
After a dozen lives were taken in our nation's capital, our major governing body continued to ignore public consensus, responding instead with the message that it is "unclear if (Monday's) tragedy changes the atmosphere sufficiently to yield a different outcome."
We should all be horrified.
Melissa Lee is a senior in College Scholars. She can be reached at email@example.com.